70% of doctors serving in deprived areas to be granted study leave next year

With effect from next year, 70 percent of doctors who serve in the North and in underserved areas wanting to further their education, will be granted the opportunity to take a study leave , that is according to Health Minister Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah.

The remaining 30 percent of doctors seeking study leave will be granted to those in the city, Dr. Agyemang stated.

Addressing staff of the Ghana Health Service(GHS) in Tamale, the Health Minister said presently 30 percent of doctors in the country are serving eight regions whiles the Greater Accra Region and Ashanti Region harbored 50 percent and 20 percent respectively.

 Dr. Agyemang disclosed that as part of plans to encourage doctors to serve in the north and underserved areas of the country, the Health Ministry in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service will provide incentives to doctors who serve in these areas.

“When you beg, they would not listen so that is what we have to do. We make sure we put enough incentives to make people come to the North make people go to underserved areas,”  the Minister noted.

The plea for doctors to serve in the northern part of the country and other underserved areas follows disparities between patient-doctor ratios especially in rural areas.

In 2008, figures released by the Upper East Regional Director of Health indicate the doctor-patient ratio in that region was 1:29,000, while the Upper West was 1:44,000, and the Northern Region 1:93,000.

Per these figures, one doctor had to treat 29,000, 44,000 and 93,000 patients from the Upper East, West and Northern regions respectively.

Brain drain, in which medical doctors seek greener pastures abroad, has been cited as one reason. Another is the refusal by most doctors to accept posting to the rural areas generally, and the northern regions in particular.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently revised its standard for the doctor-patient ratio which now stands at 1:600.

A 2012 annual Report on the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (2010 – 2013) revealed that Ghana’s doctor patient ratio stood at 1:10,452 falling short of the 1:9,700 ratio set for that year.

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